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War and family

We share the nation's concern for the loss of life of American servicemen abroad and for the dangers they so bravely face. The events of the past week, graphically depicted by the national media, compel all Americans to feel deeply the personal sacrifices of the individual families directly affected by the Beirut bombing and the Grenadan mission. Compassion for them is shared by the nation as a whole. We are, in these matters, all one family.

Whether these sacrifices prove to have been purposeful depends on whether American aims, now not generally understood, are sound and clearly articulated.

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Official statements often make it seem that wars and destruction are measured abstractly - in military analyses, international political equations, and casualty numbers.

The media daily have made American living rooms reverberate with the aftermath of the Beirut explosion. The private agonies of the injured and of those whose sons did not survive have been made public. Many viewers feel discomfort at such intrusions into family privacy, but reporting on the human impact of battle also makes the public aware of what war involves.

When the media similarly made Vietnam a living-room war, the American public eventually concluded the goals of United States participation were not worth the sacrifices - and forced an end to the US role. The public ultimately must share in the judgments about war, which are more immediately made for them by elected leaders.

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